Heavy ground is taking its toll on herd performance

An ESB pole on the N11 outside Ferns
An ESB pole on the N11 outside Ferns
Henry Walsh

Henry Walsh

Ophelia has left a trail of destruction in her wake we never want to see again.

We grew up hearing about Hurricane Debbie, the devastating storm from September 1961 and some of us also heard tales about 'The Night of the Big Wind' in 1832 when hundreds of people lost their lives.

When these weather events strike our country we are in left in awe of their destructive power.

Last week's storm highlighted many of the risks we face as farmers.

For example, farm buildings by their nature are often open structures exposed to the wind. Many of them are ageing buildings and no longer as safe as the day they were built.

During the storm the message was to stay indoors, take the day off work and undertake no unnecessary journeys.

This was not so easy for farmers with cows to be milked,or animals to be cared for.

Good planning was required and to this end great credit is due to the weather forecasters for the accuracy of their forecasts.

Get the latest news from the Farming Independent team 3 times a week.

We are told one of the consequences of global warming will be more extreme weather events in the future. We need to make our farms more storm proof because as the saying goes we do not know the day or the hour.

On the farming front the weather is every bit as wet as the autumn of 2016.

Ground conditions are very difficult. The cows are having to work really hard because of wet fields with low dry matter grass and messy roads.

We started the last rotation on October 5 and will follow the autumn rotation planner to have 65pc grazed and closed by November 1.

Farm cover is 884 kg/dm/ha with growth down to 35 kg/dm/day and demand sitting at 40.

We are feeding 3kg of a 14pc ration to the cows as well as 2kg of silage The herd are producing 13.3 litres at 5.6pc fat and 4.2pc protein or 1.35 kg/MS daily. This is a little bit lower than previous years but conditions are not good and I know they are giving me everything.

Scanning showed up 7pc empty in the cows after 12 weeks which is well below our target of 10pc. There was 2.5pc empty in the heifers with 90pc calving in the first month.

We are always looking at underlying trends and this year was very positive with only one first calver empty along with two second calvers.

Higher milk solids

The outcome of all of this will be a more mature herd next year which will deliver us higher milk solids production.

It has also allowed us to sell half of our in-calf heifers at full value versus the huge financial hit associated with an empty cull cow. My son Enda body condition scored the cows in late September and put about 20 of them on Once A Day (OAD) milking.

He also separated and housed the empty cows on 4kg of meal plus silage.

That group are being milked OAD and already you can see them improving and they will be presentable when we sell them next month or early December.

This has reduced our stocking rate to 3.4 cows/ha and soon we will reduce it further by drying off the February calving first calvers and move them to one of the out farms.

All these actions when combined should allow us to milk the main herd off grass till early December.

We weighed the incalf heifers and while their weights varied from 375kg to 475kg, body condition score was excellent and breed type was deemed to be the reason.

We have been more proactive with the calves this year and for the most part I am satisfied that they are on target.

The lightest 10 were separated and housed two weeks ago on 3kg of meal. We kept the rest of the group on second cut aftergrass plus 1 kg of meal.

They were treated with a pour-on for worms and I am happy they are thriving. There is grass for about another month and all calves will be housed at that stage.

Henry and Patricia Walsh farm in Oranmore, Co Galway, along with their son, Enda, and neighbour and out-farm owner John Moran

Indo Farming

For Stories Like This and More
Download the Free Farming Independent App